Learning to Let Go in London

Scotland is a dreamer’s paradise. What with the smooth lochs and foggy mountains and highland cows (read: heighlen coos). And well, London’s not. Shocking, I know. But let me tell you why.

Expectation is the ruiner of good things. Nothing ever meets our expectations, particularly when we set them too high. Going into this trip, I had all these expectations that London would be a flawless dream of a city, but I hadn’t expected the chaotic, albeit beautiful, mess that it is in actuality. And letting those lofty expectations go was the hardest part of my trip.

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I wanted the perfect trip to London, and it took me two days and a hot shower to realize there’s no such thing. I wanted the American-made dream that is London. And I got that, more or less. I saw Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the whole package. That was great and everything, but it just felt off. I didn’t feel that Disney World magic that I expected to feel. And that was disappointing.

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But here’s what I learned: the parts of London I didn’t know about/didn’t expect to like actually turned out to be the best part. I loved the jolty, sweaty experience of riding the Tube. I loved walking around the quiet residential area of Hampstead at midnight. I loved storming the Game of Thrones-esque Tower of London on a cool, cloudy morning. I loved seeing “The Woman in Black” live and on stage at Covent Garden’s Fortune Theatre. I loved the parts of the trip I hadn’t planned for. Those unexpected moments are what gives a trip character. When I let go of all those years of expectations that I built for London, everything became much more enjoyable. And I have to tell you, I like the London I didn’t expect. I don’t love it. But all things with time.

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Send My Love to Scotland

At this time last week, I was in Scotland. And now, I can’t breathe and I can’t sleep.

This day last week, I was having an adventure.

Shelby and I woke up at 8 a.m. and were out the door by 8:30. We walked around looking to purchase some souvenirs for our families from the shops on the Royal Mile. Trouble is, shops on the Royal Mile don’t open until 10 or 10:30 on Sundays. So we ventured down a side street to look at some medieval buildings instead. The clouds were thick and the air fresh. The freshest, most beautiful air I’ve ever breathed. The kind of air that makes you believe in fantastical and simple things alike. The kind of air that makes you feel like you’re truly alive.

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“It’s just air,” I hear you say. But it was more profound than that. Or, you know what, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was just air. But maybe, I’ve never breathed air so pure, so unpolluted, so breathtaking before. Maybe it was profoundly simple.

The second I breathed it in I knew I had a problem. I knew when I felt that chilled, autumnal air course through my nostrils and into my veins that I wouldn’t want it to exit me. That I would want to stay in that quiet, medieval town where the air is fresh and the clouds thick, the grass green and the mountains like guardians watching over those at their feet. That this place, where I had no prior expectations of it, became a place of dreams. Better than a dream, though, because it’s real.

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I couldn’t get enough of that Scottish air. I was thrilled every time we went outside. So you can imagine my excitement when we decided to walk 20 minutes to the edge of the city where an extinct volcano sits. Arthur’s Seat has all the grandeur of a king overlooking his kingdom. You can see everything from Arthur’s Seat. Lochs, putting green, castles, monuments, parks, apartments, mountains, everything. I could’ve stayed on that extinct volcano all my life.

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I can’t breathe and I can’t sleep. I miss breathing that gorgeous air. I miss sleeping with the windows open. I miss that the air was brisk enough to forgo air conditioning. I miss the gentle noise of the bar behind our hostel off Blackfriars Street. I miss the mountains and the lochs, the deep Gaelic lilt of the Scottish people. This is what love does to a person. As with anything we love, I hope to find my way back somehow. And when I do, I hope that Scotland’s air is as exhilarating as it was when I breathed it in outside a café eating a caramel-and-chocolate-layered shortbread. Until that time, I will just have to meet it in my dreams.

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A Poem a Month: I Can’t Know These Things

When I step outside my comfort zone,

I always feel afraid.

It will either be beautiful or terrifying.

I can’t know these things.

 

When I board an airplane,

I always feel afraid.

It will either be mesmerizing or horrific.

I can’t know these things.

 

When I talk to a stranger,

I always feel afraid.

It will either be moving, upsetting, or nothing at all.

I can’t know these things.

 

When I am awake,

I always feel afraid.

The unknown will always loom over me

Because

I can’t know these things

Thoughts on My First Tattoo

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It’s no secret that I got my first tattoo a couple weeks ago. But what I couldn’t have known is how much emotional ebbing and flowing this tattoo would stir up in me.

The morning after getting my tattoo, I woke up in something like a hungover state. Not that I was actually hungover (lol if you think I actually partake in underage drinking. I may be tatted now, but I still don’t drink). Just that I woke up wondering what I imagine people who like to drink wonder the morning after a night of too many tequila shots: What did I do to myself?

Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely still excited to have a tattoo. But, the realization was setting in that this is not a decision I can take back. That’s incredibly scary when you’re 20. (And have a larger, darker tattoo on your arm then you had originally planned.) All day I was going through it: some points I was incredibly proud that I had actually done it, while at other points I was a little shocked that it’s actually sitting there on my arm, staring back at me.

I went through literally every decision I could have made differently. Should I have turned the tattoo to face outward, and not towards me? Should I have gotten something smaller? Should I have not gotten it filled in? This tattoo is literally going to be with me through everything now…

My real concern is being judged for it. I would be a liar if I told you that I don’t care what other people think of me, because I wholeheartedly do. And I don’t think this is a bad thing, honestly. But in this case, I worry about people judging me before allowing me the chance to show them who I am as a person. That’s kind of the thing about tattoos though, is that they allow you to show aspects of your personality more readily than you otherwise might.

When I went shopping last week, I made a realization. Two, actually.

The first was made in the Forever 21. I was standing in line to checkout, and I thought to myself that girl (the cashier) looks like someone I would be friends with. She was wearing a dark green and black flannel shirt and a Jurassic Park t-shirt underneath it. She looked somewhat like one of my best friends, if this best friend had a facial piercing. When I stepped up to the counter, she greeted me and then stared at my arm. In a tone of either disgust or admiration (I couldn’t place it at the time) she asked, “Is that… real?” I said “This?” pointing to my tattoo. She nodded. I said “Yeah, I just got it done actually.”

This girl lit up. She said “It’s fantastic. That’s why it’s so dark- it’s new. But it’s really good.”

Then we started discussing where I had it done, which is coincidentally where she had her facial piercing done. Then she showed me the tattoo she has on her shoulder of a bunch of black and white roses. It was one of the greatest interactions with a stranger I’ve ever had. And what I realized was that this tattoo is a conversation piece. It is my blue skin, as Shel Silverstein put it in the poem “Masks;” it’s a way to connect to people who I might not otherwise know I could connect with.

Secondly, this tattoo isn’t about anyone else or what they think. I did this for me. I made this decision all on my own, because I like tattoos, and particularly this one that’s helping my type this post. If anything, this tattoo reminds me that this is my body. And since it’s mine, I’ll dress it up the way I see fit, even if other people disagree with me. That’s fine; then don’t get a tattoo on your body.

Like so many things in life, just because you may not like it doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t have it. That’s what this tattoo will always remind me of: that I have the freedom to be whoever I want to be and the freedom to not care what other people think of that.

What Spotlight Taught Me About Being a Journalist

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“I am here because I care. We’re going to tell this story. We’re going to tell it right,” Sacha Pfeiffer says in the now Oscar-winning movie Spotlight.

Being a student of journalism, Spotlight is an impactful reminder of why I want to be a part of this industry. It’s no secret that journalists are an ill-regarded breed. Perhaps that’s because journalists are considered untrustworthy- the very antithesis of what we’re supposed to be.

And I want to tell you that I don’t think you’re wrong if you feel this way about journalists. Sincerely, you should. When a good part of journalism’s history has been built on fabrication, sensationalism and clumsy misreporting, why should you be anything less than skeptical?

Last Friday night in a lecture auditorium on campus, I finally saw Spotlight. This is one of those movies that reminds you of the better side of journalism- the part where a story can change people’s lives. The part where a story can resolve past conflicts, reveal a terrifying truth, heal years-worth of open wounds and possibly save people from a number of different horrors.

If you don’t know what I’m referring to, Spotlight is about the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting team’s expose of 90 priests who sexually abused children in the Boston area. The story, or what became a series of stories, won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003.

There were some really important lessons in this movie as someone who is pursuing a career in journalism. Two of the biggest lessons were the importance of “getting it right” and the realization that stories and words can change someone’s life.

When I’ve asked people why they’re going into journalism, the most common answer I receive is ‘to change the world.’ That was one of my reasons, too. Journalism is one of the most immediately gratifying industries in that way, because journalism allows us to directly interact with the people who might be most affected by the stories we write. This can be beautiful in terms of giving people the voice we all deserve to have. But, this can also be a very heavy reality journalists have to deal with. We get to decide what to reveal about people in many instances. Whether you believe that’s ethical or not is a different story, but we decide this typically on the basis of what the public deserves to know. Though it may not always seem that way, we serve the public first and foremost. What this means is that sometimes things can be revealed about people that can make or break them, and we sit at the helm of determining that. Though, except for journalistic scandals here and there, we’re not the ones who make the story; we just report it. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Another lesson that I have been realizing I learned from Spotlight is to be persistent and to persevere. I am currently writing my big story (a story that covers a news issue, complete with four or more interviews. I have a month to work on the story) for my news-writing class. I’m not even a week into this assignment and I have already had to Facebook message, call and text one person who still isn’t responding to me. So I will do like the reporters portrayed in Spotlight did, and keep working on him. It’s annoying, admittedly, but there are only so many people in Columbia, Mo who can tell me this story.

Then again, as annoying and challenging as it can be, I think that’s what I like most about journalism: the ability to tell all of these stories through the people who know them best. Like so many, I’m a sucker for a good story.

There’s Been a Death in the Family 

There’s been a death in the family

But I won’t be there.

Work comes first

Over grief and despair.

 

It’s cold and removed,

This I know to be true.

But it’s not my pain,

So what am I to do?

 
What is there to say,

What is there to say?

Strangely nothing,

To a writer’s dismay.

 
Regardless, I know

This fact to be true:

There’s been a death in the family,

But there’s nothing I can do.

Thoughts from a Fatal Car Accident

Saturday, 12:45 p.m. Red sedan with sheet over the passenger side. The door is open, the sheet covers the opening. Just the fire department and police. No ambulance, though it looks like someone could have died. I’m among others standing and observing from afar.

It’s strange to think that all these cars driving past will never know the story. In fact, this crash may never even cross their minds again. It just seems strange how this could be so important to someone, a loved one, but to everyone else, it’s just a fleeting catastrophe. Maybe this will warrant some gawking, and surely some frustration from the traffic jam this has caused. But that might be all that it warrants from passersby.

A handful of reporters stand at a distance, taking photos and watching, waiting. The police huddle together and seem like they’re conferring.

I look back up and a group of them have lifted the sheet and are dealing with something inside the car. What or whom they are looking at, I can’t be sure; the inside is still not visible to onlookers, and I don’t imagine it will be. Probably for the better, I think to myself.

It’s weird to watch news break because the story hasn’t developed yet and isn’t accessible to the curious/concerned public. I’m now realizing referring to a fatal car crash as a “story” seems quite cold, given the circumstances, but unfortunately, that’s what this is if you’re not a loved one. Still cold, I know. And truly, I wish it wasn’t.

The police gently close the door against the sheet. What happened? Have the ambulances already come and gone? What happened to those people (assuming multiple)?

A guy with a husky passes behind me. The husky politely sniffs the back of my knee.

The front bumper of the car was torn off, assuredly in the accident. Chocolate glaze melts off my shoe from work a couple hours earlier. Employees from the Menards watch too, as if the police might tell us what happened at some point.

The fireman and police are conferring now. Maybe it’s that I can’t make out facial expressions from where I’m standing, but none of them look too torn up about this. Maybe this is just another day at the office for them. And maybe that’s the only way they can stomach tragedy on a regular basis.

Afterward: The man in the red sedan was hit by a semi-truck. The man, John Guffey 46, died in the wreck. The semi driver was uninjured. The semi driver was not under the influence. It is unknown whether Guffey was or not, as of yet. All of this is according to the Columbia Missourian.